Screams. Horrifying images. Terrible memories. Where would I find my escape? There was no space between for me.
The days for the past two years had all been the same for me. I woke up every morning, unmotivated, staring at the perfect square that the sunrise made as it beamed through the window of my bedroom. Sometimes I could stay in bed, as long as my memories didn’t come creeping up on me. Most often this happened just as I was starting to wake up, stuck in that space between sleep and awake. The emotional pain was so immense, it also pained me physically.
The only thing I’d looked forward to over the past few years was any news I would receive from back home. These pieces of information kept me going each day. They would fuel my rage and keep me motivated. These phone calls, e-mails, and sometimes letters, gradually became fewer and fewer, until all I received was the occasional phone call from my Grandfather. I couldn’t continue on that way.
I drove down to my local hardware store and stocked up on tools. The tools I picked up ranged from tape measures, to utility pencils and saws. I purchased a little over five thousand dollars’ worth. Paying cash, like always. Any other method was not possible for me. It wasn’t safe. To stay busy was the only way to keep from falling into an irreversible despair.
I stopped at the gas station and picked up a local paper, searching local listings for any open bids. There was a house listed that needed some remodeling. It was just off Fairview drive, which wasn’t far from my apartment. It would hopefully keep me busy enough to keep the depression at bay. No more staring at the perfect square of sunlight shining through my bedroom window, on a white empty wall.
My truck sat idle for a few moments as I looked at the house with old wooden siding, after making my way down its long driveway. My memories always zoned me. My body was there while my mind was in another place and time. Mark Twain once said, “For the majority of us, the past is a regret, the future is an experiment.”
I was living those words. My future was only an experiment at that point. A means to find out what I should do next, as I drifted in anger. My future plans were an uncertain experiment that I knew would bring me no closure on the past.
I jumped out of my truck and closed the door reluctantly, as I realized my heart was not into the job I was about to start. Why did I get myself into these situations? I felt tired that day. I tried to shake off what I was feeling so I could focus on changing my life in Beaufort. However, there would be no way for me to pick up from where I had been left. There was nothing left for me to pick up.
My heart felt shattered, making numb to everything. The only emotion that made me feel human was anger. I had a lot of it. Nothing shocked me anymore. I was only living each day being mundane. Work, hobbies, duties. This was the mundane; the shells of life. And they were empty shells without love. There was no love in me. I felt, only hate. At the end of the day I had nothing to look forward to. Some would call it hopeless.
I refocused my attention on the house in front of me. At one time you could tell this was a very beautiful home in Beaufort, North Carolina. There ran a fence the entire length of the gravel drive, which may have held horses at one time. The quaintness of the home was inviting. The potential was still there, but it needed the old ripped off to reveal what it could be again.
The house had been foreclosed and purchased by a mother and daughter for a low price. I was hired to side the house and replace the old, curled-up shingles with a tin roof.
I liked old houses. The kind that were lived in and always felt like someone’s home, and not like a vacation spot. The house felt like family and had a view of the water, yet not too close to any large beaches. It could definitely pass as a vacation home for some. There was a long dock that stretched into the shallows. I expected to see a boat at the end, but there wasn’t one. The view was nice, so the work would at least be pleasant.
Glancing away from the home, I noticed the new detail on the side of my truck, where my business name had bubbled on the top left corner. Taking my index finger, I tried to push it out, but it didn’t work. I stood back and looked at the rest of the logo that read Jack of All Trades. I rolled my eyes at the name I had chosen. It was lame, just like the job that was done on the detail.
I shrugged it off and reached into the back of my pick-up truck, grabbing a few of my new tools. I stood back and paid more attention to the detail of the home. The house was livable, although I didn’t know how long you would want to live in it without having it fixed up. I was pretty sure the roof leaked, judging by how old the shingles were. The old, wooden siding had never been cleaned, so in the spots that were most shaded it actually had fungus growing. I was going to start with the siding and work my way to the roof. Tearing off siding was the easy part. A giant dumpster was there for all the mess that would be created in the remodel process. I just wished they had set it a little closer to the house.
I grabbed a small crowbar and my new wooden-handled hammer and slid them into my tool belt. There was an old wooden hammer that was on its last legs, lying beneath some other tools and air compressor hoses. I reached for it, pulling it out of the back of my pick-up. As I passed by the dumpster, I tossed it in.
I proceeded toward the east end of the house to get started, when I noticed an upstairs drape had been slightly disturbed. There was a young woman peeking out toward me from a full length window at the front peak of the home, where the attic level was. It wasn’t like she was even hiding the fact that she was looking out at me. Her dark hair was hiding the side of her face, and she stood there for what felt like ten minutes, watching me as I began to tear off siding. I was felt uncomfortable when I knew someone was watching me. The way I caught her staring felt different. I couldn’t wrap my mind around why. I felt like I was being admired, or that I was entertaining her in some way. Maybe I should have waved to her and let her know that I saw her. I could only get so far on that end of the house before I needed a ladder. I took one more glance up at the window, and prepared to wave. And just like that, she was gone.
One thing to know when working at someone else’s home; you are always being watched. It could be the home owner or a neighbor. For some reason though, it was always elderly neighbors who would be watching. The elderly men would sit on their porches and spy, while the old ladies would peek out of a crack in the shades for long periods of time.
When I worked with my father as a teenager on houses, he educated me in rules that I never forgot. I can remember him coming up to me saying, “We have a Rear Window.” He was referencing an Alfred Hitchcock movie in which a wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. So every time we noticed neighbors staring at us while we worked, they were Rear Windows.
I would not have classified my current window loiterer as a Rear Window. Particularly because it didn’t seem like she was waiting for me to do something wrong. She was also standing in plain sight. She most likely saw me throw my hammer into the dumpster, and the loud noise sparked her curiosity. I remember picking up all tricks of the trade with my father and we only ever had three different occasions where the home owner, or a neighbor, was more trouble than the job was worth. As long as this didn’t turn out to be the case here, I would be just fine.
I tore off everything I could in one day, and it was the first of the week. Not bad. And for what my weather application could foresee, the clear skies were going to hold out for the rest of the week. What could not have been foreseen was the help I would receive along the way that would bring me back from the mundane, and pick up the pieces that were too heavy for my heart to pick up alone.